Reaction to President Barack Obama’s fifth State of the Union address was predictably divided along party lines within the Inland Northwest’s congressional delegation.
Democrats praised the president’s message and tone. Republicans were critical of it.
“What I heard from President Obama tonight was hostility toward our foundational principles, condescension toward a co-equal branch of government, and a general aversion to common sense and bipartisanship,” Republican U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, whose congressional district includes North Idaho, said in prepared remarks. “The fact that he is threatening Congress with executive orders if we do not follow his agenda is even more alarming.”
The White House announced earlier Tuesday that Obama had signed an executive order raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 for all future government contracts. The wage increase plan also was mentioned during the president’s speech Tuesday night.
Both of Idaho’s U.S. senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, were critical of the president’s executive order. Crapo said the move was bad for business while Risch characterized the move as an unprecedented overreach. Both are Republicans.
Obama is “entitled to run the executive branch, but he can’t run the legislative branch,” said Risch when asked about the executive order. “Presidents from both sides have done this for years, but this president has taken it to a higher level.”
The wage hike is almost $3 above the current federal minimum wage of $7.25, which is also Idaho’s. Washington’s minimum wage is the highest in the country at $9.32 an hour.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., voted to increase the federal minimum wage in 2006 and pushed back against opponents of a rate increase.
“Washington state has always had a high minimum wage, and that’s never hurt us,” Cantwell said.
Two months after getting a bipartisan budget agreement through the Senate and House alongside House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., challenged Republicans to work with Democrats on the issue.
“The minimum wage has fallen further and further behind the rising cost of living, and we owe it to our workers to make sure their hard work is properly rewarded,” Murray said. “I expect Congress to act in the near future to give millions more workers a raise.”
It’s unclear when Congress will take up legislation to increase the federal minimum wage. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is also looking to increase the state’s minimum wage to somewhere between $10.82 and $11.82.